Tuesday’s protest in Ottawa against George W. Bush united people from all over North American with one common goal: to get the message out to the President that he and his policies are not welcome here.
A convoy of 17 buses from Concordia and McGill descended upon the nation’s capital to be heard, and they were not alone. Angry protestors united to send a clear message to President Bush: his war-mongering methods are being noticed, and people are not happy about it.
Single, stay-at-home mom Leila Douglas and her three-year-old daughter came from Montreal to participate in the demonstrations. “The world has been a scary place, and has been for a while thanks to Bush. I’m here to fight against it,” said Douglas. If the protests were to turn violent, her daughter would be sent to stay with her grandmother. “It’s important for us to see children at these events, and important for children to understand their world.”
Richard Day, professor of sociology at Queen’s University, traveled to Ottawa to show his support. “I’m here to be in solidarity with other protestors, to expose the xenophobia, the war, and to protest capitalism. Someone like him [George Bush] shouldn’t be allowed in to Canada,” said Day. “His attempt at global domination can and must fail. There are five buses here from Queen’s [university], and a bunch of cars. In a way it’s weird – Bush unites us; anarchists and Marxists stand united. He gives us a marvelous, united target for veteran protestors.”
From City Hall, protestors peacefully made their way through the heart of the financial district to Parliament Hill. Among those marching was Ria Heynen a local member of Raging Grannies, a group of grandmothers from Kingston, Montreal and Ottawa. “We want to send a message to our government,” said Heynen. “It is wrong to get involved with fascist American policies and fascist governments,” she said. “Closer economic ties means less unions, decreasing salaries, it all goes down the drain.” Some members of Raging Grannies protesting were in their ’80s.
Concordia’s People’s Potato, together with Food Not Bombs from Toronto, and the G-Spud from Carleton University, provided free and pay-what-you can food during the rally at City Hall.
Kirsten Tancon, a political science major at Concordia, says “I’ve never felt so passionately about something before. I finally found a direct protest and I felt I needed to be here.” Thousands more in Ottawa shared the same sentiment, including Saige and Ariah, her nine-year-old son. “Ahriah showed a lot of concern during the elections, and this is an issue I feel strongly about. This is an opportunity to show my disgust in a proper manner,” said Saige.
An estimated 5,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Ottawa. Police clashed with protestors on Wellington in front of Chateau Laurier and the Parliament in the early afternoon as protestors stormed the barricades isolating Sussex Drive and the Alexandria Bridge into Gatineau/Hull Quebec. Ontario Provincial Police in riot gear lined the barricades and were prepared to launch tear gas into the crowd if the situation turned violent. By four P.M., there had been three arrests and the Chateau Laurier had been blasted with a paint gun, but no tear gas canisters had been fired. Snipers were visible on the roofs of neighbouring hotels. A massive candlelight vigil was planned for five p.m. on Parliament Hill.
Bush is scheduled to have Alberta beef for dinner at the Museum of Natural History, and will stay overnight at the American Ambassador’s residence.
He leaves for Halifax first thing in the morning where he will thank residents for the hospitality they showed towrd stranded American airline passengers followig the Sept. 11 attacks.